Internet service workers to strike for six hours over holidays

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 April, 2006, 12:00am

About 20 employees manning telephone hotlines for the internet service access seller iCare will go on strike today following the breakdown of talks on statutory holiday compensation.

Although internet access will not be disrupted, employees of iCare's hotline division will not work from 8am to 1pm today.

Instead they will hold a sit-in protest at the headquarters of Town Gas, the parent company of iCare, in North Point. They will resume work after the action.

In response to the strike threat, iCare yesterday assured the public that internet services would not be affected. It would use its office staff and Town Gas' own customer service officers to help staff the hotline.

The main business of iCare, jointly owned by Town Gas and Henderson Investment, is providing internet access through TV set-top boxes. It also offers online shopping services.

The employees said the company had not paid them any compensation for working on statutory holidays in the past four years. They said the compensation was worth about $300,000.

But iCare insisted the holidays they were offering employees each year already included compensation leave for working on statutory public holidays. A series of meetings have taken place in an attempt to settle the dispute, but no progress had been made.

Communications Workers General Union's executive Sung Chi-tak said yesterday iCare owed each hotline employee an average of more than 60 days of holidays. 'It remains unclear how employees had been compensated as claimed by iCare as there were actually no records kept by the company on that,' he said.

'Since the company is ignoring our demands, we can't just cross our arms and do nothing.'

Mr Sung warned of more drastic action if iCare still refused to compensate the employees.

A spokeswoman for iCare said the dispute only erupted from a difference in the way holidays were calculated and iCare had tried its best to explain the situation over the past two months. 'We have suggested bringing the case to the Labour Tribunal but the employees have refused that,' she said, adding the employees have the right to stage a strike and would not be punished for that.